Saturday, June 29, 2013

Only Sadists Keep Snakes, or So Sayeth the Internet

In the course of my work with Pets Unlimited, I spend a fair amount of time doing research, both on and off the clock, in order to learn more about the animals I care for, and in order to address some pretty specific problems. Because a large number of my sources ultimately wind up being blogs operated by breeders, I usually wind up learning a fair amount about what non-keepers think about the keepers of various things. The most hated of all, of course, are snake-keepers.
Now, I myself don't keep snakes, recreationally, anyway. I might, if I can ever get the Girl Worth Fighting For over her unfounded fear of the things. As pets go, snakes are high affection for low maintainance (though, as with any pet, you get what you pay for). Why the hate on for snake keepers?

It has to do a lot with their food. Snakes are obligate carnivores, and for the majority of pet species, the meat of choice is rodent. Snakes, of course, are notorious for needing to be fed live food, which is a half-truism I'll address in the moment. Because you're feeding live things to other live things, the whole practice is seen as being cruel and unusual.

Now, let's set aside for the moment that live food sometimes wins, to the injury or death of the snake in question, and focus on some alternatives. You could, in theory, feed a snake nothing but frozen-thawed. First you'd have to train the snake to accept it, and then you'd have to come up with a way to compensate for the lack of nutrition in the frozen foods available.

Not to mention, a frozen rat is still a rat.

Now, I've said it before but it bears repeating: if it were up to each of us to hunt, kill, prepare, and then eat our own meat, most of us would be lacto-ovo vegetarians. I've known people who turn up their nose at fishing (being a fish keeper, I find my nearly-strictly seafood summer diet amusing, to say the least). If you have a pet, and your pet is not a bird or an obligate herbavore, somewhere, someone killed an animal to feed it. That goes for all dogs, cats, reptiles, and yes, even fish. The fact that your food comes in nice, brightly-coloured packages absolves you of nothing.

For the record, when feeding live, once you're no longer dealing with infant animals, it becomes necessary to pre-kill the prey item immediately before feeding. I would say that that level of responsibility - the need to personally take the life of one creature to sustain the life of another, is the ultimate level of discipline in the pet hobby.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Why Gay Marriage Forces Me to be a Democrat

Bunnies: Proof Homosexuality Happens
So, in case you fell asleep recently and slept through one of the larger SCOTUS decisions in our generation's history, you should know that DOMA was struck down and Prop 8's appeal for survival was defeated, meaning that gay marriage is once again legal in the State of California and can be made to be legal in any state in the union that so wishes. This has been seen largely as a civil rights victory for the gay community, and speaking as a straight guy with a surprising amount of gay friends on both sides of the border, I'm pretty pleased to learn that the American ones will at least have the same rights as the Canadian ones.

Now, I'm going to save the morality of homosexuality for a later discussion. Being mortal and strictly adherent to Matthew 7:5 I'm not entirely sure I actually get to have that conversation, but since controversy is the bread-and-butter of hits and hits are the bread-and-butter of those of us who are trying to make a living with a single ad box, you can probably expect me to be not so strict in my adherence.

As it happens, I am enjoying the reaction to the ruling more than the ruling itself. Remember, for those of you who need it, that the force and effect of the ruling was that "gay marriage is once again legal in the State of California and can be made to be legal in any state in the union that so wishes." No more, no less.

What's this have to do with me never being able to be a republican? The tea party. Speaker of the House Boehner actually did a very good job of addressing the ruling in a tasteful, responsible way. Then, the right wing of his own party jumped up and shot the chances of a Republican presidency in 2016 right in the rear.

I'm going to start with the statements that are truly egregious-in-fact: the statements from elected Republicans that make it clear that there should be an exam on civil procedure before you're allowed to run for office in America. I refer, of course, to Rep. Stephen Scalise. My source, of course, is the CBC.

“It’s a sad day when unelected judges change the definition of marriage and turn their backs on the will of voters and … their elected representatives,” he declared. 
Unelected judges  overriding the tyranny of the majority is precisely why the US has a supreme court. If it didn't, there is a strong possibility that schools and businesses would still be segregated along racial lines.  In the 60s, when the Jim Crowe laws were still in force an effect, they were very popular among the majority. Sometimes, the will of the voters is wrong in light of the US Constitution, and that's why Judges don't have to run for office. And shouldn't have to.
“Marriage has been debased by this decision, and the moral fibre of our country is affected greatly,” said Doug Lamalfa of California, adding that churches will now somehow be forced to “perform things that they are against.”
Tortoises also occasionally show gay behaviour
 There's actually a factual error in here, but I do want to wade into the area of morality in order to address the first half of the statement. To say that marriage has been debased by gay marriage, in a country where Kim Kardashian was married for about a week and made $17 Million in the process, where overnight drunken weddings in Vegas are so common that they have become a staple of comedy movies, and where the divorce rate is higher than the marriage rate (meaning most divorcees have already been divorced) is a little like saying my applying whiteout to that graffiti over there debased the wall. Moving from that, however, there is a factual error here, and an oft repeated one.

No Church, anywhere in the United States, is forced to perform anything. Not by this ruling or any law on the books I can find. They are simply allowed to do so. Some chruches actually embrace gay marriage: The United Church of Canada is one example, though I'm certain there is an American one. To to say that they were forced to do so only admits something the Con-Equality side doesn't want you to know - some churches bow to public opinion and allow marriage rights to the homosexuals. Admitting that would be admitting that the majority actually does want gay rights.

Redefining marriage, declared Louie Gohmert of Texas, is “usually tried at the end of a great civilization.”
I've um, I've never been a fan of this argument because it lacks an appropriate humility. Rome, you ain't. Damascus, you ain't. But, ignoring for a moment the definition of great civilizations, I've never been able to find a scrap of evidence for this assertion. None. And, once tasked with arguing against gay marriage for a Logic and Debate project in college, I can actually say this was an argument I tried before. Or rather, considered trying - no evidence means no argument.

Of course, Boehner and the mainstream Republicans had the right side of this issue - we disagree, but SCOTUS is SCOTUS - but that doesn't matter, because once again, the Tea Party is hijacking the issue. And that's a shame, because, until there's a legitimate counterpoint to the Democratic Party in the US, the Dems are pretty much going to run the show.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tactics Out the Window: It's Time for Sudden Death!

Real-Life Spelunking
Those of you who have been following the blog for a while (that is, everyone who's actually following it on the blogger engine itself) know that I used to post a lot more frequently. A few might remember that I used to post about things of substance, things that involved more mental effort than recording the remains of the day in a journal. I used to make videos for a while, too - fans of the Communeguy Channel and people who are following Sl33k Studios could both use an apology since I haven't put any game videos out in a while, and fans of the fish, well... I haven't written or vlogged about that recently, either.

I have the raw footage and stills for a new fish video gathered up, and I'm sure if I wasn't so busy trying to catch up on sleep on my days off, I could have put together an episode or two of Let's Play videos soon, as well.

Basically, the only games I play now are handheld, when I play them at all, and then only because I have time to play them at work on my lunch break.

So no game videos, no real blogging, and so on.

Tell you guys what, though. If only once a week, I will do one of the three. Honest.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Seven Quick Takes on Taking Takes.

I still feel like this guy.
--- 1 ---
So, I've been made a supervisor. Depending on how you slice your authority (if you're an authority-over-title type), this is actually the highest-ranking position I've ever held anywhere. So far, not a whole heck of a lot has changed, except I no longer need permission to do certain things, and I have bypass controls for the till to do things that the cashiers should be allowed to do anyway.

So, mostly, all I've got is a heavier set of keys. And the same job as always. Only moreso, or something. So... yeah?

--- 2 ---
I've developed an over-fondness for serving food over rice lately - probably an offshoot of a recent trip to a local Japanese restaurant where I had my fill of proper Japanese food and then some. Having said that, I've been eating rice for years and I generally prefer it over potatos. Really, I could live just fine by occasionally changing up my rice-eating with Pasta. It's also a tie-in to my shiny new Bento Box which was, in part, my birthday gift to me, though it was retroactively made-awesome by another gift, so now I need a new birthday gift to me.

Now, what I really need to find is some dashi mix or even dried kombu or bonito, to dress up the rice a bit. I tried just seasoning it with tamari but it made it too dark so I dunno.

Note to myself for the future: Talapia hates ginger.

--- 3 ---
Never a one to argue with anyone about anything, I'm not going to point out how fallacious the idea that the major parties are haranguing each other over fiscal ethics when they're all mired in the fiscal ethics scandal. I'm definitely not going to be voting exclusively green or independant in the coming election now because of the scandal. Most certainly, I won't be trying to get all of my friends and allies to do the same.

I'm innocent. Honest.

This photo is still overused.
--- 4 ---
So, as I've been hinting, the ol' birthday is just around the corner, so to some extent I'm starting to get excited about it. In point of fact, I have no plans, no real plans to make plans, and I work the actual night of, so I'm probably not going to get up to much.

As a bit of a fiscal windfall, my birthday happens to fall in a month with three pay periods this year, so it's almost like math is giving me a birthday present. And when you think about it, that's pretty damn cool.

--- 5 ---
Spending most of my time working with hopelessly liberal liberals is making me sound further and further right all the time - at least economically.  Therein lies the problem with politics - there's too many axes and issues to properly align yourself with any one party or even any one ideologue.

It's also making me remember precisely why I believe in restricted access to freedoms but having those freedoms in spades. Like enforcement for laws against underage drinking...

--- 6 ---
Well, I've done it again. I just can't for the life of me keep rosemary alive for more than a couple of weeks. Go figure.

--- 7 ---
It is settled, by the way - I will be changing my stocking on my tank, so it's worth stating here that I'm taking dibs for the fish giveaway starting now.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Pickup Artistry and the Lost Art

Pocket-sized baby animals are the
only wingman you need!
For the uninitiated, there's a device called a kickstarter. Kickstarter is a website dedicated (like a few other services) to helping small and independent developers get their product or service to market. It's essentially a way to gather micro-investments for starting capital without giving up any corporate control and I am all for that. Usually, I'm all for the projects it generates - I've been tempted to use the program to get a potential novel to market if I ever make it so far as to finish any of them.

Sometimes though, it stumbles into the realm of stupidity. An internet pickup artist is publishing a book that is a good snapshot of why I will be adding large swaths of reddit to the parental controls on the off chance I ever have children who age up enough to use the internet, and a good part of the reason why I totally understand the overprotective nature of every father figure in every literary venue ever - at least where daughters are concerned.

As it boils down, this guy's style is sexual assault by degrees - basically pushing the envelope until the target's reptile brain overrides higher brain function and they assent without consenting. It preys on the fact that not all women are over-defensive psychos (and that, frankly, there are quite a few women running around with loose morals) in order to get you laid. The whole idea smacks of entitlement to sex, as if it's somehow a right of yours to pursue, to the fuzzy borders of rape, any woman you choose, and until she maces you or has someone kick the crap out of you, you're not to take no for an answer. Basically, it's the feminist position in reverse - it's not a no unless it's emphatically stated, and if there's even a little wiggle-room left in the tone, that's consent, baby!

It smacks of wearing your jeans so low that your boxers show (back in my day, that was the fast track to the ridicule of your peers... and probably still is.), substituting "Body Spray" for actual cologne, and alchohol whose quality is measured according to the formula "Proof over Price". While I agree that there seems to be some value in being forward, and I'm certainly not an expert on the subject by any stretch of the imagination, I consider not being an expert in this field to be something of a matter of pride.

I don't need to be a pickup master because I did it right the first time.

The bonus items are actually worse - in order to pad out his goals and make even more free money, the author has now been committed to promises of chapters on, among other things, Juggling Multiple Relationships. Now, I'm all for open relationships, when and if all partners are consenting to the idea. Something tells me, just from the general attitude of the rest of the book, that's not what this chapter is about.

If you have time, hop on over and report this kickstarter - the report button is at the bottom of the page.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Pivotal Age: Pre-Birthday Musings on Chronological Age

Odell Park should be renamed Idyll Park
 So, my birthday is in just over a week. Typically, I recognize my own birthday out of a sense of an obligation to do so. Since the all-important 19th birthday, no temporal milestone has seemed nearly as relevant as those tied to achievements. I'm not sure why - the eve of a birthday was historically the only evening as suspenseful as Christmas Eve for most of my childhood. The polish is off, now.

I figure a part of that is that there's no longer a "feature" unlocked by my age. Chronological age doesn't entitle me to new rights, abilities, pay grades, or opportunities. In point of fact, a number of the rights attached to age haven't really impacted my life all that heavily and to be honest there were a few of those rights for which the age of responsibility should perhaps be elevated.

A running joke among my friends (and, increasingly, my co-workers, given the increasingly long time I tend to stay in one place) is that I'm already an old man, even when I'm often the youngest person in a group (though this is less common now among my co-workers as more and more teenagers join the work-force over the summer). In point of fact, "old man" is a sort of unrecognized byword for most of my mannerisms - mostly tied to my love of vests, sweaters, tea, and a certain ornery, almost stubborn attitude I unintentionally cultivate. I don't feel old per-se. True, I often feel older than the people I'm around (even when this is not true), and to be fair, that's a bit of an arrogant assumption in my mind.

See, when I was younger, I always associated age with maturity, and it's certainly true as a generality that there's a correlation there. However, a certain point came in the last few years where I realized that wasn't true. I've met immature individuals in their fourties and fifties (and beyond), and wound up hanging around with people far younger than me who made me feel like an irresponsible child.

And that's the key, really, is the way we define maturity. We often associate it with what we can do - voting, smoking, drinking, driving (preferably not the latter two together), and to a certain extent, that becomes what we mean by mature.

But the reason those activities were always privileges tied to age and not inherent rights was because of concerns of the consequences of those activities, when carried out by those too immature to properly weight the consequences. It's why children can't make their own medical decisions - if I was allowed to have made those calls I'd probably never have taken a single blood test, and as a result we'd never have found a medication to make me relatively stable.

More Odell Park.
Having said all of that, I'm still not sure what maturity means, which is why I can't say I'm more or less mature than I was before. I'm certainly more responsible in certain areas than I was in the past - my brother's birthday in a few weeks also marks the longest period of time I've had a single place of employment without incident, and the promotion I recently received probably underscores that. What's more, a few months ago I also celebrated my single-longest continuous stretch of employment, where the two jobs I had most recently overlapped, meaning I've now been gainfully employed for a little over a year.

But life is more than working, and maturity is more than employment. What I've gained in work-ethic, I haven't gained everywhere. I'm only just starting to get a handle on treating my belongings with appropriate care, and even then, there are screw-ups.

So, am I mature? Illogical question. Am I more mature for having lived a year longer than the last time I asked myself this question? I should say so.

And there's always room to grow. Otherwise, why bother counting from one birthday to the next?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

"It's taken on an international flavour, much like myself."

My dearest friend among suborder
Serpentes, the Mexican Black King Snake.
Someone on the Facebooks pointed out, after reading my culinary artist's statement, that the general tone of the document suggested I should stick to the traditional foods of the area in which I am. I'm pretty sure I actually said the opposite in the body text, but in case it was missed or I imagined it, I meant quite the opposite.

I live in an area that doesn't really have its own cuisine. A few minor delicacies, but for the most part, our foods are cribbed from French cuisine (in formal dining) and a smattering of UK and other Western European cuisines. Much like in the US, our Chinese is Americanized, our Italian is pathetic (seriously, Vitos is the worst excuse for Italian and Greek I've ever tasted), and pretty much everyone else is misrepresented - only our Japanese and our Indian is really all that authentic, at least in the city in which I live.

Home cooking, for a truly disappointing number of the locals, is Meat and Potatoes, plus whatever fast-mix "ethnic" foods might be conjured from the supermarket aisles.

Pretty early in my life and right through the bulk of high school, I developed a fascination with Japanese culture that really only broke when I stopped dreaming of going there to teach English - a dream that broke when I met the girl worth fighting for and decided to stay. During that time, I developed quite an appreciation for a number of facets of the culture, up to and including the food.

During my first year at NBCC I did what I could to incorporate that fascination into my learning - mostly by watching Japanese chefs do their thing and coming to understand the composition of traditional Japanese meals. In the end, I haven't learned that many Japanese recpies - about the only thing I can prepare from memory is my zushi rice and the only other recipe I have written down that's authentically Japanese is the batter I use for tempura. More importantly, I've learned techniques and customs, which can be used in nearly any other form of cuisine - in essence, when I cook Japanese I often use a western flavour pallet. I also learned the ethic of leaving the flavour of the ingredients as untouched as possible - seasonings have a place on stage, but as the backup chorus and not the chief tenor.

During my second year, my interests turned to Italian. Like me, my mother trained in the culinary arts in her youth (a dream I screwed up, as I understand it. XD), and I had the good fortune to have my household menu be rather broad. Italian spoke to me. Many of my mom's best recipes are at least Italian in essence, such as her Lasagna, and one of the earliest savoury dishes I learned to prepare was a nice, hearty Bolognese sauce. Again, I didn't lock down recipes as much as I locked down techniques - pasta making being something of a skill focus for my entire second year.

The only other thing I learned that year was the importance of an understanding of ingredients - this one time, I got Chef Ritter to order in eight different types of Mushrooms so that I could spend a whole week working with them and learning the difference between the different types.

I haven't met a Mushroom I don't like... yet. Anyway, the fact of the matter remains that I don't believe in borders in cuisine. My favourite tool for plating will always be chopsticks, my favourite seasoning will probably always be garlic, and my preferred cooking oil will certainly be clarified butter. My point was that, before we start messing around with the cutting-edge trendy techniques more akin to hardware stores and medical supplies, we should ground ourselves in authentic, traditional techniques.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Fantasy Became Reality

I have come to accept this activity
as perfectly safe, for example.
Perhaps it's my mostly-introverted tendencies coming to the fore, but nothing shapes reality quite so strongly as ones perceptions of it. If apples are perceived as being unpleasant, they will be unpleasant in any and all circumstances, until someone can slip the apples past your perception filter and tell you what they were only after you enjoyed them. In cooking, we refer to this as "hiding the peas in the mashed potatoes". I used to think of it as a deplorable practice until I obtained a job where changing minds was less of a hobby and more of a necessity.

I see it all the time. Someone comes in - usually too young to understand the concept of research (so, mid-twenties), or too old to change their ways (I leave that to your interpretation), demands a totally inappropriate combination of fish for their tank size, and leaves in a huff when one person or another tells them it's a bad idea. Granted, there's no gentle way to say it, but inappropriate stocking is the most common form of animal abuse, whether we're dealing with fish or people who think that lizards can go into community setups.

However, every now and then, one has a lucid moment and can think before they speak. Instead of saying "No, putting a goldfish in a tank that small is a horrible idea" and then launching into the long-winded explanation of how stunting kills fish, we can occasionally remember to say instead "Here, let me show you a better arrangement" without even pausing to explain why the original is bad (until we're asked, of course). By then, whoever is on the receiving end of our activism has already bought into the idea of our better suggestions and is listening to our advice less in the frame of us being a 'retail wage slave/under-trained sales guy' and more in the frame of "passionate veteran fishkeeper" - which in at least the case of our location, not a single person is less than a six-year veteran of the hobby (I, actually, have the least experience).

This is actually true of any ideology. It's a skill many humanists, and other ideological salespeople (feminists being the flavour of the month, but also evangelists and scientists, to name a few) frankly lack. I myself have only the vaguest understanding of it existing on an academic level and certainly don't find it reflexive, so I can at least understand why it's underused as a tactic. I guess you could call it a bait and switch. In sales, we called it up-selling. At Teavana, I frequently used it to down-sell from something expensive but ineffectual to something that would actually work for the complaints given - a trick that provided a few very lucrative relationships.

It seems to me the most common path an ideologue takes looks something like this:
<Insert argument here> is the most preferable ideal. You disagree? You must be <insert denigrating adjective here>. 
Or, to elucidate it in familiar form:
Stocking a tank as is appropriate to the size of the system is the most preferable ideal. You disagree? You must be abusive to animals.
 Marriage equality if the state is allowed to marry individuals is the most preferable idea. You disagree? You must be hateful.
Women are constantly oppressed in our society. You disagree? You must be an ignorant pawn of the patriarchy. 
Faith in Christ is the most preferable ideal. You disagree? You must be proud in your sin.
Taking preventative action toward climate change is the most preferable ideal. You disagree? You must be wilfully ignorant. 
This fish, for example, should not exist.
See how it makes even agreeable statements look like absolute nonsense? And yet, it is the key debating tactic of even the popular internet personalities (Thunderf00t and the people he fights with being just one common example). Invective gets the people who already agree with you excited. It does nothing to change minds.

The next time you disagree with someone, no matter how breathtakingly stupid they are, con them into agreeing with you, rather than telling them flat-out that they're breathtakingly stupid. Who knows - you might actually get them to agree with you. For an example of this technique in live action in a non-sales context, consider the very well-written "My Journey Toward the Church" series by Cam over at A Woman's Place.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Artist's Statement - Culinary Edition

Sooner or later, we all return to our roots.
The culinary world is as a castle built on sand - if the foundations are not deep, the shifting of the landscape will destroy what you have built.

Today, the culinary world is changing. New techniques emerge - some the product of the shrinking of the world, and others, the product of its expansion. In a world where the idea of a terrine can be as exotic as sushi, and where liquid nitrogen and agar are at home in the kitchen as the science classroom, it often seems as though there are no limits. And there aren't, and perhaps there shouldn't be.

But when you take food as a living - whether you are a professional chef, a homemaker, or somewhere in between - you need roots that go deeper than the latest trends. No amount of passion is going to save you when jellied escargot, cryogenic sorbets, and inkjet sushi fade from fashion. This is not an argument against the trends, but a caution.

Before we went to space, we had to get off the ground. Before a person walks, they must learn to crawl.

There are no borders, but there is foundation. Before you can innovate your cuisine, you must learn it. But what is your cuisine? Is it merely the cuisine of the area you lived in? You received formal education in cooking - is your cuisine French? No. Your cuisine is the food that switches you on. It's the food that gets the blood going, the food you turn to when you can't decide where to turn.

Dig deep. Rosanjin and Escouffier are of equal merit, and their merit is greater than Bartolli or Oliver, if you take my meaning. There's no necessity to limit yourself by one nationality, one author, or one chef. However, technique is the understanding. There can be no sauce without the soup, without the stock, without the bladework. With no sauce there can be no pasta, no fish, no steak. Without rolls there could be no pastry, without pastry, no dessert, without dessert, no fun.

For every technique the chef refuses to learn or utilize, there is a loss of control. How can we complain about the amount of salt or other additives in our salami if we are unwilling to do our own charcuterie? What better way to secure your body against saccharine than to make your own sorbet? How are you to defend your children's health, without an understanding of what you give them?

Cuisine's golden age was the age of kings. When no compromise was acceptable, the old masters dug deep, and found new, innovative dishes since faded from memory. When was the last time you were at a party and someone served a poached salmon with sauce chaud-froid? Have you ever tried tsukimono, or sampled dim-sum? Who would have thought to combine tomatoes and cream, or to stuff the quail with mushrooms and rice, or that squash, of all things, would be delicious under a hot pomodoro?

Cooking is tradition. Tradition, is innovation. The best chef is the one who can serve the food closest to him, in the manner most pleasing to the guests, without the need of inventing a thing.

Monday, June 3, 2013

From the Fish Tank: June 3rd

Couldn't wait until sunset to take a photo.
Sometimes, it's hard to remember to do these posts. Keeping of fish is so much a study of minutiae, of day-to-day minor adjustments and tiny tasks, that one loses track of what is happening overall. Since our last update at the beginning of may, I've actually made quite a few changes - most obviously, having replaced the central plants with an explosively-growing cultivar I cannot remember the name of. Between fast plant growth, regular dosing, and the remaining pair of S lineolata loaches, I've got algae pretty well under control. Now I just have to deal with the traditional red algae, which I remove manually with a magnetic scrub.

Interestingly, the high light has actually changed some of my plants, narrowing the leaves of my amazon swords. This was predicted, but I did not expect it to go on so quickly.

Speaking in general, this tank has been having some growing pains. That sand there has turned out to be an artificial produce of macerated limestone and sandstone - the included limestone has been a strong buffering agent that has slowly, but steadily, been raising my pH. To counteract this, I have to dose heavily with acidifiers and step up my water change regiment - the filter's back to filtering over granulated peat, I'm going through tropical extracts like crazy. The result is dark water that the fish absolutely love, but no real change in pH.
Odessa Barb and Denison's Torpedo Barb frolic near the Mystery Plant.

As you know, however, I'm moving. The city I'm moving to has a very different tapwater - it's generally harder and therefore generally more alkaline than one would expect from the city water here where I live - it's much closer to our well water. Now, I can continue to keep my fish the way I have been - aggressively treating and pre-conditioning my water to drive the pH down. If I do that, I should probably replace my substrate entirely, preferably with another sand, in which case, such a tedious replacement only might help. The new sand could be full of carbonates, which would only exacerbate the problem, especially if I'm dealing with the harder, more alkaline water to start with. Now, it's possible (with a small army of buckets) to precondition my water-change water by steeping leaf litter or dried ketapang in it, to make it more acidic and softer, but that brings out the tedium and there likely won't be the space for it - not to mention that standing water is a great way to breed fruit flies.
Odessa gets an honour guard from most of the Denisonii barbs.
 There's no real upside in a situation like that. Without a miracle (like the water having a high GENERAL hardness but a very low Carbonate Hardness, meaning it's not as acidic as I think), it would be easier to take a dramatic change in direction. For those of you nearby, it's actually an opportunity. Those Sewellia loaches just aren't available locally anymore, and the barbs are grown on considerably more than what you'd find in the store (and, for that matter, you won't find the Denisons). When I get a pH test done in the next few days up there, I'll be make a final decision, but for now, if anyone wants to lay claim to any of my fish for a late-summer/early-fall adoption, they should start getting ready to let me know.

Need to hide that wiring better...
The 10-gallon is in the same situation. As I may have reported, Mongkut became impacted and died, but he has been replaced with a rather nice blue-white Super Delta, who we'll get a close-up of in the future. Those of you who have never kept a fish in recent memory will probably enjoy a beta. As it happens, the Betta will be the subject of a special giveaway that I will mention below the cut.

Having said that, this tank is doing very well. It killed my nerite snails somehow (probably a crummy acclimation, as snails are difficult to acclimate properly in my experience), but other than that, I've not lost a single fish except the beta - even the notoriously finnicky cardinal tetras are still in their full complement.

The Betta in question, and not a flattering photo. The white is more
pronounced in reality.
On to the Betta. He can't follow me to Fredericton. Not because I don't think he'd survive - the substrate in that tank actually softens and lowers pH - but because, if I go with my giveaway plans, I'm going to want this ten-gallon tank for a new purpose all its own. The Betta, however, is a package deal. He comes in a 5-gallon fish tank with its own air-driven sponge filter and a screen cover, along with a few select clippings of my favourite plants. You'll need to add a small heater to the system, but other than that, it's entirely ready to go for long-term care of a frankly, beautiful fish.

Also, the majority of my plants will be up for grabs, once I decide which ones to keep, in particular cuttings of the Egeria Densa and select clones of my Amazon Swords.